Although they declined to participate in last year’s edition, the Phillies frequently try to bolster the roster through the Rule 5 draft. In the three Rule 5 drafts under Pat Gillick’s watch, the Phillies drafted or acquired six players. None of them stuck at the time, but Travis Blackley went on to throw over 100 innings in Oakland’s surprising 2012 season, and Alfredo Simon has pitched in the majors five straight years. Ruben Amaro Jr. has followed Gillick’s lead in this draft (but not in many other areas), and has taken three Rule 5 players, two of which stuck in the majors. While David Herndon’s impact was minimal and Michael Martinez’s was negative, the team has shown this is an avenue they have no problem using to help the team.
Players like Josh Hamilton and Johan Santana have previously been taken in the Rule 5 draft, but don’t expect that to happen again. In the Collective Bargaining Agreement reached in 2006, the owners and players agreed that teams would have an extra year to evaluate players before they had to be protected on the 40 man roster. That means teams have one more critical year to evaluate their talent, so fewer players can slip through the cracks into the Rule 5 draft. With that in mind, here are some players the Phillies could be looking at.
Texas LHP Chad Bell: The third time was the charm for Bell who finally signed professionally after the third time he was picked in the draft. The Rangers got him in 2009 out of Walters State College, and he’s advanced to AAA since he started his professional career in 2010. If not a back-end starter, he could succeed in a swing role between the rotation and bullpen since nearly half of his career appearances have come as a reliever. His fastball could sit in the low 90’s as a reliever, but his curveball is his best pitch. His changeup is adequate enough for him to start, but he could probably drop it as a reliever. He’ll be 24 in 2013, and he has the polish to hold his own in the majors even if he’s not quite ready yet.
Atlanta LHP Ryan Buchter: Over the last couple years, we’ve seen Atlanta’s bullpen dominate the end of games with big fastballs. Buchter follows in those footsteps with a fastball that ranges between 92-96, a pretty rare trait for a lefty. That’s allowed him to strike out over 10 batters per nine innings in his career, but he’s also had major control problems his entire career split between three organizations. His career BB/9 sits at 5.9, and it was even higher in a 2012 season that saw him walk an almost unbelievable 17 batters in eight AAA innings. Lefties with his stuff will always get opportunities though, and the soon-to-be 26 year old could compete with Jeremy Horst and Jake Diekman for a spot in the Phillies’ bullpen.
Tampa Bay INF Cole Figueroa: Figueroa is pretty much the quintessential 25th man on a roster. He’s played mostly second and third base, but that’s because most of his career has been spent on the same roster with one highly touted shortstop or another, starting with Drew Cumberland with the Padres and then Tim Beckham and Hak-Ju Lee with the Rays. His ability to step in and play the occasional shortstop makes him a true utility player, and that would allow Freddy Galvis to return to AAA to play every day where he belongs. He doesn’t have the power the Phillies are hoping to add this offseason, but the left handed hitter makes good contact, finds ways to get on base with a career 12.1 BB%, and he has a little bit of speed too.
San Diego C Jason Hagerty: The Rule 5 draft might be Hagerty’s best path to the majors because it just seems like Yasmani Grandal can’t get out of his way. At Miami as an amateur, Hagerty had to move to first base to accommodate Grandal, and of course now, Grandal is San Diego’s #1 catcher. He has fine potential of his own though, but a shoulder injury led to a down 2012 season. The 25 year old is a switch hitter with power, but the shoulder problem sapped his power and hurt his batting average. His .248 BA was the lowest he’s had since he hit the full season leagues, but one positive sign is that his walk and strikeout rates were similar if not better than most years in his career. Behind the plate, his defensive ceiling is just average, but if he pans out, his bat makes that a fair tradeoff. The Phillies seem set at catcher, but it wouldn’t hurt to give Erik Kratz and Humberto Quintero some competition.
Boston OF Jeremy Hazelbaker: Hazelbaker is an intriguing player, and many were left surprised that he wasn’t protected by the Red Sox. Two years ago, he stole 63 bases in the South Atlantic League, and last year he was a home run away from being a rare minor league 20/20 player. The 25 year old’s power has developed better than expected, and now he has above average speed and power. He’s a bit of a free swinger and will strike out a bit, but he is also patient and can wait for his pitch. Despite his speed, he’s not a very good defender which leaves him in left field due to a lack of arm strength. In the past, the left handed hitter has shown some large left/right splits, so he could survive in the league as a platoon player.
Baltimore INF Ty Kelly: In some ways, Kelly is pretty similar to Figueroa; he’s a grinder that makes consistent contact and gets on base with more walks than strikeouts in his career. Defense is a big difference though. While Kelly doesn’t play shortstop, he has spent some time in the outfield which gives him some nice versatility. In 2012, he went from high-A to AA, and while his power decreased at every level, but his very good plate approach and feel for contact remained the same. A switch hitter, Kelly is probably better batting left handed, but he was pretty even between the two last year. He has more power from the left side, and swings a bit more from the right side.
Mets 2B Josh Satin: The last two years, Daniel Murphy and Justin Turner have combined for over 1500 plate appearances, and Satin is in that bat first, subpar defense mold. In a few weeks he’ll be 28 years old, but he could probably still help a team by being able to play multiple positions and provide a solid bat off the bench. He strikes out more than Figueroa or Kelly and won’t hit for the same kind of average, but he’s still patient and waits for his pitch. Over the last three seasons, he’s added a bit of power to his game too. His minor league stats indicate he wouldn’t be limited to only facing left handed pitchers either with typically even splits. He’s played mostly second base, first base and third base in his career, but he also has some offseason experience playing left field.
Houston RHP Jason Stoffel: When the Giants drafted Arizona’s closer in 2009, they expected a polished reliever that would move through the system quickly. Things didn’t go according to plan, and in 2011 he was traded from San Francisco to the Houston organization in the Jeff Keppinger trade. In 2012, he finally pitched the way scouts probably expected repeating AA. He was finally able to control his low 90’s fastball and power slider and had a career low 2.5 BB/9. For the first time since he started pitching full season ball, he allowed fewer hits than innings pitched. All of that culminated in not being protected by the team that finished with the worst record in consecutive years.
Cubs RHP Nick Struck: Struck was awful at best in the Arizona Fall League, and that clearly could have played a role in the Cubs’ decision to leave him unprotected. He could pitch in the back end of a rotation, but as a short righty with a pretty shallow arsenal, he could ultimately end up in the bullpen. His fastball has reached the mid 90’s in the past, but it was a 90-92 pitch in the AFL. His changeup has plenty of velocity separation from his fastball, and he worked in a curveball as well. He still has work to do, but his walk and strikeout rates have been trending in the right direction.
Nationals RHP Rob Wort: To be honest, I can’t find much recent information on Wort. From high school reports, he sounded like a better hitter than pitcher. He threw in the high 80’s with okay breaking stuff, but either his stuff has improved or he’s incredibly deceptive because he struck out 15.1 batters per nine innings in high-A this year. His left/right splits were pretty sizable, and that could suggest his arm slot is pretty slow. He only walked three batters per nine innings too, so statistically he has to be one of the more interesting players available.
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